15 minutes of grim cyberpunk RPG Radio The Universe

Radio The Universe

Radio The Universe is not a high-profile game. Until it surfaced on Kickstarter five years ago (raising only $81k, but in excess of all stretch goals), nobody knew it existed, nor of its developer, the enigmatic solo artist 6e6e6e. All we’ve seen of it since is an old trailer and some brief animated GIFs and clips, posted intermittently to the developer’s Twitter feed and YouTube channel.

Until yesterday.

After watching fifteen minutes of nearly uncut Radio The Universe footage, I find myself both thrilled and filled with regret at not chipping in on the Kickstarter back in 2012. Read on, and take a look for yourself.

I’m not sure about you, but that tickles all manner of dark sci-fi fancies for me, blending familiar Zelda-esque elements with all manner of gothic and cyberpunk influences. The footage above is of the Black Heap region, meant to be one of the starting areas of the game, and shows the protagonist battling some hefty-looking robots while gathering power and upgrades among the junkpile.

Outside of the obviously impressive soundscape in the video, the visual palette, style of shading and weighty character movement all remind me fondly of the original Alundra for Playstation. The fact that a lone developer can produce something which would have once required a 20-strong team of professionals is a sign of the times, even if it has taken over five years to reach this point.

The game looks almost completely transformed compared to the screenshots and trailer attached to the Kickstarter, but the core is still there: A dangerous cyberpunk world dense with mechanical threats and where death seems to be just part of the experience, albeit a jarring, sudden and unpleasant-sounding one.

Radio The Universe

Looking at the map of the game-world as detailed in the Kickstarter page, I can’t help but draw comparisons to Dark Souls. Your crumbling cathedral hideout acting as a base of operations as you venture both higher and deeper. A world of interconnected regions linked by elevators and vehicles, with an endless void below and a world of artificial sunlight above.

Just reading about the game gets my imagination ticking over, and seeing it in action confirms that 6e6e6e may be quiet and enigmatic, but they have talent, and I will be eagerly following development of this until the end, no matter how far off that may be.

38 Comments

  1. wcq says:

    This sort of thing is usually right up my alley, but wow. I haven’t had a negative reaction this strong to a game’s visuals in a while.

    The screenshots do indeed look very, very pretty. But looking at the gameplay video, the low resolution and muted color palette combined with the hyper-detailed art design make it really hard to tell what’s going on. Even the character upgrade screen (or what I suspect to be one, anyway) is so low-res and full of glitch effects that it makes my eyes hurt.

    • smeaa mario says:

      Curse the day when indie devs first got addicted to all this low-res nostalgia trip. The whole premise was all good and well once upon a time… But that was eons ago.

      • Dominic Tarason says:

        Little secret: Sprite art gets exponentially more expensive to produce with each effective hardware generation. Most indie developers stick to SNES or NES-equivalent standards because it means working with low enough pixel and frame counts for one person to handle. Similarly, the higher the number of colours used, the more work that has to be done on shading.

        Radio The Universe is – as mentioned – about on par with Alundra, which is still held in high regard as one of the best-looking 2D games on the Playstation. For one person to be doing that on top of everything else, where that game had a dedicated whole art team, is *amazing*.

        Even Japan’s biggest fighting game studios have now given up on producing high-res sprites. Guilty Gear has fully transitioned from them to cel-shaded 3d models, which are vastly cheaper to produce.

      • Dominic Tarason says:

        This is nice and educational:

        link to indiegogo.com

        The Skullgirls developer breaking down the price of producing a single new character: $150,000, most of that being art costs.

        That’s why most people stick to lower-res pixel art.

        • smeaa mario says:

          Yeah, it goes without saying that better graphics + textures = more time and money to invest.

          All I am saying is low-res pixel art doesn’t excite me even one bit anymore, though it surely used to. Resolution that could work in a small-screen handheld isn’t exactly a good fit for an average monitor these days. Everything is so cluttered. Everything requires a lot of squinting. I am not even going to mention how overused the whole thing is.

          It’s a good thing that some people still love it. But I am pretty sure my view on the topic also represents that of a good lot of people.

          • noodlecake says:

            I find most pixel art styles in games to be uninspired, but this one is beautiful and has a unique style. It baffles me that somebody could hate all pixel art styles in games as much as it would baffle me for someone to hate all 3D polygon based graphics.

    • crashb says:

      Personally, I *loved* the “glitching” effects on the UI – I think it looks friggin’ incredible, not to mention utterly unique. Although the gameplay-relevant information seems somewhat obscured in these menus, I’m not finding them particularly grating on the eyes.

      • Raoul Duke says:

        I’m with you, I think this looks (visually) fantastic. Like a mashup of various great early 90s games, then updated with a touch of 2010s style.

    • babymoses says:

      To be fair, it might be different if you’re the one in control of the character. It’s hard to decypher what’s happening in Gridrunner Revolution from gameplay videos as well.

      That said, I got the same impression as you.

  2. Chromatose says:

    I am so excited that this game is still in development. The previews shown so far have looked incredible. Really goes for that Tsutomu Nihei decaying megastructure vibe which so few games bother to attempt.

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      Yeah, I didn’t want to stretch the post above too far, but there’s a definite Blame! feel to it.

      Another upcoming game that’s overtly inspired by the same manga is Megasphere, although that’s a little less on the grungy and crumbling side.

    • Chromatose says:

      I see you are new to the world of one-man Kickstarter projects, how may I be of assistance?

  3. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    Can’t view videos at work, but the screenshots look neat. I’ll have to keep this one on the short list.

  4. DrBomb says:

    You’re not the only one that regrets not backing that kickstarter :(

    • ThTa says:

      Me too, though I outright didn’t have the option at the time.

      Instead I backed through Paypal, and somewhere around 2014 the dev stopped forwarding Kickstarter updates. :/

      Oh well, I’d rather be pleasantly surprised when/if it’s actually released than get notified about every little thing.

      • ThTa says:

        Ah, bit too late to edit, but going through the feed, it looks like he was just forwarding the backer-only updates in the first place (and they’ve all been public since… somewhere around 2014). I guess that sort of makes sense, then. (Though it’s still slightly inconvenient.)

  5. fenriz says:

    The style is seriously good.

    But can anyone point me to a time in the video where something “rpg’ish” happens?

    something of a puzzle, reminding of Fallout’s final dungeon where one can win in different ways? anything that would suggest non-linearity

    • crashb says:

      One interesting thing I noticed was that the very first bit of footage involves the player character solving a non-obvious platforming puzzle in the cathedral, where they have to destroy crates to create ledges to jump on. By doing this, the player was able to bypass a gate which led to the Black Heap area. There isn’t that much context in the video, but it looks like the hidden platforming puzzle might have been a “sequence break” rather than the “intentional” (read: most obvious) route.

      Another big thing I noticed is that individual areas seemed to have far more side paths than were actually explored in the video – another possible source of non-linearity.

  6. Ghostwise says:

    You compared a game to Dark Souls. YOU COMPARED A GAME TO DARK SOULS.

    /cry

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      It’s not something I do often, but just LOOK at it. From the map on the Kickstarter to the boss footage shown (check the dev’s youtube channel for another one that is clearly channeling the formula), there’s definitely some Souls spirit to this one

      • Ghostwise says:

        But Dominic, we had *ALL* agreed to a five-year moratorium on Dark Souls comparisons. The moratorium explicitly covers all video games, audio-visual productions, pet mammals and underwear branding.

        Weren’t you at the meeting ? *Everybody* was at the meeting.

        • Dogshevik says:

          Stacey´s dog was at the meeting.

          He only rated it 6 out of 10 woofs due to the overuse of powerpoint and an inadequate snack selection, though.

        • April March says:

          I was in the meeting. It was very tense. I might go as far as saying it was the Dark Souls of meetings.

  7. Xelos says:

    …what? It’s a one-man project, with a tiny budget and only so many hours in the day. You might seriously underestimate just how time-consuming game development is. Even if he/she works fulltime on the project, 5 years is still not an uncommon length for such undertaking (see Owlboy , Stardew Valley and Cuphead for recent examples, and OB and CH were NOT solo ventures) , and living for 5 years on 80k$ budget is not wasteful in any shape or form. I don’t know how do you expect Kickstarer money to speed things up.

  8. Dominic Tarason says:

    Think about this: A game like Alundra takes a team of 20 people at least one full year to produce. Maybe two or three.

    Now, how long does an equivalent game take for *one person* to produce? Assuming they’re self-trained in every possible discipline.

    • Darloth says:

      Less than 20 due to vastly reduced interoperational overhead.

      But indeed, about 5-6 seems about right depending on game scope, and it looks beautiful for the style they’ve gone for, and it looks really -interesting-, like very few other things do even if you happen not to like it.

      Seriously, if it was a 1 million dollar kickstarter I could see the complaint… but 80k? That’s not a big budget! I’ve never seen it before this post but now I wish I -had- backed it.

  9. Chromanoid says:

    Wow, that really tingles my “Secret of Evermore”-nerves that I obtained in my childhood… link to squabblebox.co.uk

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      While you’re waiting on RTU, check out Crosscode on Steam. I hope to write something more detailed about it once it hits its next major development milestone.

  10. malkav11 says:

    Honestly I’ve tended to forget that I backed this since it’s been taking so long and updates are pretty infrequent. But I’m glad it’s looking good.

  11. fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

    That has to be the best grimy retrofuture green-screen animation ever.

    Also, something about the protagonist reminds me enough of Link that I just couldn’t shake the feeling that Hyrule isn’t what it used to be whenever he smashed something with his sword for loot.

  12. hfm says:

    that looks spectacular.

  13. Furiant says:

    I think I’ll probably try this. I love the audio just about as much as I dislike the graphics (although the glitchy UI screens are cool).

  14. phlebas says:

    Did you watch the video?

    THAT IS WHAT I AM EXCITED ABOUT.

  15. clockworkrat says:

    The earlier videos on that YouTube channel look nothing special, but the whole aesthetic in this one is enthralling. The palette, design, and even the animations have a recognisable cohesion to them. This looks special.

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      There seems to be a real divide between people who think the game as it looks now is a huge improvement over the original designs, or ruins them.

      Personally, I think it’s just different, but the sheer level of detail amazes me considering that this is a solo developer.

  16. Premium User Badge

    DantronLesotho says:

    Really excited for this after watching that gameplay video. It looks like a fascinating world to live in.

  17. K_Sezegedin says:

    Damn I love some dense well animated pixel art, games like this and hyperlight drifter are like the SNES games you might’ve played in some fevered childhood dream.

Comment on this story

XHTML: Allowed code: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>